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You’re Doing Safety Orientations All Wrong


How would your employees describe your company’s safety orientations? Interesting? Engaging? Or just something they had to sit through so they could start working?

If that last one sounds about right, you’re not alone. Safety orientations are given at the beginning of an employee’s time with a company, either individually or in groups—and they have a bad reputation for being boring. It’s unfortunate, because it’s not necessary! Too many companies are going about their safety orientations all wrong.

What Safety Orientations Should Be

On the surface, safety orientations have a straightforward purpose: to teach new hires about the safety requirements of the company and the job they’ll be doing. But done right, a good safety orientation has a lot more to offer.

Beyond just safety requirements, safety orientations serve as a way to introduce the safety culture of your company to new hires. They show new employees the importance and place of safety culture in your company.

They also offer an early opportunity to invite engagement in the safety culture. A new employee who feels heard and respected at the safety orientation becomes a veteran employee who sticks around, and who internalizes and evangelizes your safety culture to others. In this way, good safety orientations support employee retention as well.

What You’re Doing Wrong

There are a few common problems we see with the typical safety orientations given by companies:

  1. Reading from a manual, or otherwise dictating information from the front of the room.
  2. Telling instead of showing.
  1. Focusing on the wrong things.

Those first two are simple enough, but what do we mean by focusing on the wrong things? Here’s an example: are you sure you need to spend time at the safety orientation going over your policy on ladder use? This is the kind of thing that is exactly the same from company to company, and it’s likely your new employees already know this information, based on their credentials and any prior work experience. After all, that’s why you hired them in the first place, right?

How to Fix Your Safety Orientations

So now that you know what’s gone wrong, how can you redesign your safety orientations to fulfill their potential?

First, stop reading from the manual at the front of the room! If that was all a safety orientation was about, employees could just read the manual themselves and call it a day. Instead, focus on showing, not telling. You can do this by:

  • Using multimedia: Images and videos add an important visual component to your training, and they can often convey ideas better than just words.
  • Breaking up the orientation with site visits and/or demonstrations: This goes beyond even videos, giving new hires an up-close, firsthand look at the safety measures they’re learning about.

Second, make sure your orientation is specific to the things that are unique at your company. Don’t waste time going over information your new employees already know.

Next, always invite questions and conversation from attendees. You want them to fully understand what’s being talked about, so they need to be able to ask questions about anything that needs more explanation. Plus, they’ll retain the information better if it’s presented as a two-way conversation instead of a lecture.

And as mentioned before, listening to and respecting the comments and questions of your employees at the safety orientation can go a long way toward retaining employees who are invested in the safety culture of your company.

That safety culture is what you really want to focus on during the orientation, instead of your safety rules. It may seem like a small difference, but showing new workers that your company has a well established culture that prioritizes safety is important for maintaining that culture – and keeping everyone safe.

Ready to overhaul your safety orientations now? If it sounds like a great idea but you could use some help, give us a call to hear more about how to customize a safety orientation that surprises, entertains, and engages your new employees.


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